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'Avatar' Has Titanic Odds To Stay No. 1 At Box Office

Oddsmakers suggest re-release of 'Titanic' may not be enough to retake crown

The box office take for "Titanic" in 1997 and 1998 was so large, some suggested only its writer and director, James Cameron, could ever knock it off.

And he did. With his very next movie which came out more than a decade later: "Avatar."

The science-fiction environmental film raked in $760.5 million at the box office in 2009, easily surpassing the $600.8 million "Titanic" did. Yet, Cameron is now prepping "Titanic" for a 3-D re-release in time for the infamous ship's 100-year sinking anniversary.

Could the film revive the same sentiment it got the first time around, and earn the $160 million needed to be No. 1 again?

Paddy Power, which describes itself as Europe's largest betting company, says "Titanic" as a 7-in-4 chance of reclaiming the box office crown. That translates to about a 37 percent chance.

"The early odds would suggest that 'Titanic' faces an uphill struggle to reclaimed the No. 1. slot on the list," a Paddy Power spokesperson said, in a release. "But with the release of the film coinciding with the 100-year anniversary of the vessel's maiden voyage, Titanic fever might make 'Avatar's' time at the top short and sweet."

The odds, of course, don't reflect the North American hurdle "Titanic" has, but the worldwide hurdle. While just a couple strong box office weeks separate "Titanic" and "Avatar" in the United States, "Avatar's" worldwide take is $2.78 billion, compared to $1.84 billion from "Titanic." That means "Titanic" would have to generate at least $900 million worldwide to take that back, or basically what "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" did in 2005.

The odds that "Titanic" will make between $800 million and $1 billion is 13-in-8, or 38 percent. The odds of crossing $1 billion is virtually the same for it to beat "Avatar" in total box office.

Of course, such ratios and probabilities don't represent what is truly believed to be the chances of a certain event happening, but instead, what the "house" -- or in this case, Paddy Power -- is willing to bet against in an effort to turn a profit from lost bets.

Fact is, "Titanic" does not have far to go to surpass the American numbers. The cost of movie tickets are much higher now than they were in 1997, and 3-D adds a premium price to tickets that helped "Avatar" soar nearly three years ago.

And if we were to adjust for inflation, "Titanic" already is No. 1. Since its original run, the annual rate of inflation change is just under 42 percent. That means the $600.8 million then would be $852.2 million today. "Avatar" would have a much smaller inflation adjustment, moving from $760.5 million to $807 million.

Then again, if we were to adjust all films for inflation, "Gone With the Wind" would go from $198.7 million to $3.3 billion -- likely being the No. 1 film of all time, and making this entire discussion moot.

"Titanic" is re-released April 4, six days from the centennial anniversary of the RMS Titanic setting sale. The ship itself sunk April 15, 1912, with 1,514 people perishing in the cold Atlantic Ocean.

All-Time Top Grossing Films (Worldwide)

1.    Avatar    2009    $2.78 billion
2.    Titanic    1997    $1.84 billion
3.    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2    2011    $1.33 billion
4.    The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King    2003    $1.13 billion
5.    Transformers: Dark of the Moon    2011    $1.11 billion

Source: Worldwide Box Office

About the Author

Michael Hinman is the founder and editor-in-chief for Airlock Alpha and the entire GenreNexus. He owns Nexus Media Group Inc., the parent corporation of the GenreNexus and is a veteran print journalist. He lives in Tampa, Fla.
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